Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley's glittering promise to build a better world.
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So this is it, Silicon Valley.
There's Google just down here.
Tesla, Apple's headquarters, Facebook.
And over there in the distance you've got San Francisco.
Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, all based over there.
It's absolutely unbelievable.
The tech gods here are selling us all a brighter future.
We are one global community.
With the technology in our pockets, we can reclaim our cities.
We don't want to be part of the problem.
We are and will continue to be part of the solution.
But Silicon Valley's promise to build a better world
relies on tearing up the world as it is.
They call it disruption.
My name is Jamie Bartlett.
I'm a tech writer.
I want to discover what the reality is
behind Silicon Valley's utopian vision.
Across the world, some communities are fighting back
against Silicon Valley's disruption.
But what are the consequences for the rest of us?
If the world really does end,
there's not going to be a lot of places to run.
VOICEOVER: This former Facebook insider fears for the future.
Within 30 years, half of humanity won't have a job.
And it could get ugly. There could be a revolution.
That's why I'm here.
This is the story of the disruptors of Silicon Valley
and whether their promise to build a better world
could end up destroying everything.
The tech gods are promising us a sunny utopia.
But could the forces they're unleashing
actually herald a much darker future?
In the postapocalypse,
the 5.56mm round will be the currency
of the new America. I guarantee you.
It's not at all what I expected.
Up close, Silicon Valley looks so normal.
Even a touch boring.
What is it that makes this place
such a force for change in all our lives?
So this place here...
..is Rainbow Mansion.
It's an intentional community
of people working to optimise the galaxy.
So it seems like a pretty good place to start.
The mansion is home to a bunch of global nomads
who've come to Silicon Valley to pursue their dreams.
-Welcome to Rainbow.
VOICEOVER: Jeremy Swerdlow is a virtual reality hardware designer
and my guide.
So could you show me a little bit around?
Yeah. There are people working on stuff all over this house.
Technology has been democratised in a way that it never has been before.
People just need a laptop,
you can start an entire company just on a laptop.
Let me take you into the garage.
-Or the lab.
You can't have a garage in Silicon Valley,
it's got to be a lab.
So the rule here is if your car isn't broken, it can't be in here.
This is, this is for building, this is for start-ups.
This is for hardware and making prototypes and building stuff.
Garages play a crucial role in the mythology Silicon Valley
weaves around itself.
Everyone remembers how
Hewlett-Packard began in this one.
Apple started in this one.
And Google's early days were here.
-What is it that you're doing?
-So I'm working out how to do CO2 conversion
using ultraviolet energy from the sun.
You can reverse climate change, you can terraform Mars...
Reverse climate change!
Chemically, it's totally possible.
This is called the hyper loop.
Hyper loop is a new type of transportation system.
You shoot at very high speed inside a tube
and you can connect cities in a very short amount of time.
But you must believe that technology like this is,
in the end, it's going to help people,
-it's going to help the world?
-Yeah, of course.
We are explorers, we are pushing boundaries, discovering new worlds.
Every Sunday night, the mansion hosts expert speakers.
People come from all over Silicon Valley to share ideas.
You can't move without falling over a plan
to solve one of the world's pressing problems.
Our hamburger, the impossible burger, made from plants,
uses a small fraction of the land,
the water, and the greenhouse gas emissions
that a traditional burger would use.
We're looking to change the whole food system in the US.
And the world.
Among this slightly cultish crowd
I found a man who scaled the heights of Silicon Valley.
Bill Hunt created five start-ups he sold for half a billion dollars.
What do you think the attitude here is to change and to changing things,
changing how industries work, changing how society works?
There's a lot of that.
There's a lot of focus on disruption.
VOICEOVER: Here it is. The most potent idea
at the heart of Silicon Valley's ideology.
There is a mind-set here that's very focused on disruption.
What can you do such that you're not just talking about
how we can make money,
but how can we do things in a new way, in a better way,
that makes the world better, both financially and socially?
It's thinking about, like, how do we get rid of this previous industry,
this previous architecture, this previous system
and find a new way to do it, a way that's better?
The quantum properties of different matter can be in a superposition,
meaning that they are...
This place is kind of
what the dream of Silicon Valley is, I suppose.
The... The idea that just armed with a bit of technology
and a thought about how to change the world,
you can actually make it happen.
You can completely transform the way things are done.
And that you can use technology in a way that will radically improve
the lives of millions of people.
And I think they really all believed in that as well.
The same fervour can be heard from the tech gods too.
In Silicon Valley, it's got a really positive association.
To be disruptive means you're changing the world.
It all sounds so hopeful.
But behind Silicon Valley's ideals of disruption
is a more traditional business reality.
Cold, hard cash.
Start-ups are drawn to Silicon Valley
because of another vast industry -
Financiers who gamble billions of dollars on young companies
in the hope of finding another Facebook or Google.
But investment has a consequence.
The founders of the two most valuable start-ups here,
Airbnb and Uber,
have attracted billions of dollars of venture capital.
Even though Airbnb has only just begun to turn a profit
and Uber has been losing billions.
Maybe more than profit,
venture capitalists want to see the potential for profit.
And that creates a huge pressure on these companies
to show that they're always growing.
Increasing the number of customers as quickly as possible -
"killing it", as they say here - is the start-up mantra.
But what does it mean for Silicon Valley's mission
to build a better world?
Home of tech's newest disruptors,
Uber and Airbnb.
It is a city of extremes.
Private buses take tech workers to Silicon Valley.
Not far away,
food queues and the very different lives of those left behind.
I'm here to meet the tech company that has raised more money than
any other, more than 16 billion.
Uber's not even a taxi company at all, really.
It's a sort of revolutionary new type of transportation network.
There's this fundamental need to make transportation better,
to make getting around cities better.
You're talking about literally taking congestion off the road,
you're talking about taking pollution out of the air.
Founder Travis Kalanick's utopian vision sounds persuasive.
But scandals over sexism and bullying finished him off as CEO.
There he is.
Just eight years old,
the company operates in more than 450 cities across 76 countries.
So what's the truth about the kind of world Uber is building?
I'm meeting Uber's head of transportation policy.
-Wow, it's huge!
What is the aesthetic?
Open. I think. Open-plan.
So tell me a bit about
what the kind of vision of Uber is.
Yeah. I mean, the vision is getting away from everybody needing
to drive their own car everywhere they go.
Right, if you look at a place like the US,
where the overwhelming majority of travel is done by people driving
their own car, and that has lots of consequences.
Not just in terms of the number of vehicles people need to own,
but how cities are designed and laid out.
Everything from the amount of parking that we have,
to the amount of fatalities on the road, to environmental impact.
VOICEOVER: There it is.
A pure expression of Silicon Valley utopianism.
Is this a profit-making company, or is it a social mission, then?
-What is this?
-That's what's nice about it.
I think by driving the business towards supporting people
into shared cars... Right, there's a profit-making incentive there,
obviously we're here to make money as a private business.
But as you start to get into different places
and you change how people use vehicles,
then you have all these other effects that you start to open up.
In Silicon Valley, there is no contradiction
between chasing a healthy profit
and claiming to be working for the good of humanity.
But disruption means what it says.
Around the world, traditional taxi drivers have protested
about Uber undercutting their prices.
It's classic Silicon Valley disruption -
destroying old industries
by providing a popular, cheap alternative.
But the social cost of this disruption goes much further.
Home to more than a billion people and Uber's top target
for global growth.
I'm in Hyderabad to see the human consequences
of the disruption cooked up in San Francisco.
Uber is promising a new kind of flexible job,
empowering its drivers.
But the reality has been far less liberating.
Narasimha and Mahendar were attracted by Uber's pitch.
With no profits and under huge pressure
to grow against a strong local rival,
Uber ran adverts on billboards and in the press,
promising drivers up to £1,100 a month,
around four times what these drivers had been earning.
Car ownership is low in India,
especially among those likely to drive for Uber.
So the company helps drivers borrow money to buy new cars.
Narasimha borrowed around £12,500 to buy a Tata Indigo.
Mahendar borrowed around £8,000 to buy a Tata Indica.
As the number of Uber drivers rose,
the number of customers did not keep up,
so earnings fell.
With a ready supply of drivers, the company cut incentives too.
I'm meeting one family whose lives have been utterly changed
after Uber's promise turned to a nightmare.
Mohammed Zaheer worked as a taxi driver.
When Uber opened up, he couldn't wait to join.
Was he excited by this opportunity?
Mohammed borrowed around £8,500 to buy a Tata Indicar.
Soon his earnings fell, like many other drivers.
Were you under pressure from,
from people who lent you money?
In 2015, Mohammed joined other Uber drivers on strike,
angry over falling earnings.
Noorjahan remembers the last time
she spoke to her husband on the phone.
A few hours later, Mohammed was found dead.
Mohammed had hanged himself.
His body was taken to the Uber offices.
The company did not respond.
I mean, after everything that's happened...
..what do you now think of Uber as a company?
Two other Uber drivers have killed themselves in Hyderabad.
A former Uber executive has agreed to talk to me anonymously.
Do you think you could have been, or should have been, more...
..open with the drivers about how their salaries or their incentives
might change in the future?
I could have been. I would say, yes.
Obviously, yes. Drivers were misled.
They're totally misled.
That is actually causing all the pain for a lot of people.
The mantra of Silicon Valley is that disruption is always good.
And through smartphones and digital technology,
we can create more efficient, more convenient, faster services.
And everyone wins from that.
But behind that beautifully designed app,
or that slick platform,
there's a quite brutal form of capitalism unfolding,
and it's leaving some of the poorest people in society behind.
In a statement, Uber said their heart goes out to Noorjahan
and her family. Uber supported the authorities' investigation
of this case and will continue to do so if requested.
Uber said drivers are at the heart of what they do
and they're committed to improving their experience.
In India, Uber is listening to them and acting on what they learn.
Back in Silicon Valley,
I'm realising how much energy the tech titans devote to one thing...
..presenting themselves as the heroes of the people,
taking on all kinds of vested interests.
One of the most remarkable branding tricks of the 21st century
has been the way that Silicon Valley has managed to persuade us
that they're not like other companies.
I mean, when you think about banks or big pharma, oil,
you imagine them as being driven only by profit.
And yet Silicon Valley, we imagine, is different.
They are puffed up with social purpose to improve the world,
that they're the good guys.
when I booked this trip, my friend said I was crazy...
The founders of Airbnb, for example,
are connecting the world,
not simply allowing people to advertise holiday lets.
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your world with me.
Airbnb, belong anywhere.
This is Airbnb's global headquarters in San Francisco.
I wonder whether I'll get another dose
of Silicon Valley utopianism here.
We're on our way.
Chris, I'm Jamie.
How are you doing? Nice to meet you.
VOICEOVER: Chris Lehane was once called the master of disaster.
As Bill Clinton's spin doctor, he managed the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Chris is now Airbnb's head of global policy.
Like all the tech gods of Silicon Valley,
the founders of Airbnb have their own exulted creation myth.
Two of the three founders were living in an apartment
on Rausch Street in San Francisco.
There was actually an art conference that was coming to the city,
so they came up with this idea
that they advertised as air bed and breakfast on a lister
and, after that weekend,
a light bulb went over their head, which is,
maybe there is a business here.
So, hang on, is this a model of their room?
This is a model of one of the rooms
that would have been in the original listing,
and there's actually something called, up on the fourth floor,
which I think is around the corner over here, called the founders' den,
where they actually did their meetings and came up with the idea.
Today, Airbnb is a global giant, valued at around 31 billion,
but it doesn't see itself as big business.
We do like to think of ourselves as a different type of company.
The founders' initial idea was make money off of what is typically
your greatest expense, which is your housing,
to be able to stay in your housing, and that still remains true today.
You know, over half the people who are on the platform
are low to moderate income people, regular people.
They use it to cover basic expenses, including the cost of their housing.
Airbnb believes its online marketplace is empowering people.
Our founders, they came up with a real vision here,
and the vision was to be able to use the platform
to connect people to people.
We like to say, we are of the people, by the people,
for the people, but really they use the platform so that people can
spend time with one another.
You think about what's going on in the world today,
and people are talking about building walls,
closing doors, putting up barriers.
A real question of whether we are going to have an open society
or a closed society, and this is a place
that is really focused on using technology
to help create an open society.
Airbnb claims to be on the side of the little people,
and the only losers from their disruption
are traditional hotel owners.
But that's not how it feels in Barcelona,
where Airbnb has run into a spot of bother.
These people have rented an apartment through the website.
They are not tourists but locals, staging a protest against Airbnb.
They are angry rents in the city are going up
as landlords cater more and more to tourists.
They are increasing the prices of the normal rents in Barcelona.
The local government is trying to control
the growth of tourist accommodation in the city.
All short-term rental properties must be licensed.
This flat isn't.
The group prepare a statement they will read from the balcony.
Before long, the agent managing the property arrives.
It turns out the agent is managing 13 properties in Barcelona,
all advertised on Airbnb.
It's not just Barcelona that has seen protests like this.
Residents of other cities around the world have also raised fears Airbnb
is driving up rents and pushing locals out.
Airbnb has now banned this property agent from the platform
for breaking their rules.
These were local protesters that were in the streets,
unhappy with the way Airbnb was working with the authority,
and the effects that was having in Barcelona.
It wasn't large corporations. It was ordinary citizens in the city.
But that makes the point.
There isn't a regulatory structure in Barcelona.
The government, up until recently,
has resisted actually getting involved, sitting down like we're
sitting down right now,
and actually coming up with a regulatory structure that can work.
In a number of other cities, people have sat down
and we've figured it out, and it's really working well.
So, at the end of the day,
to address something that is a new thing that has come along,
you actually have to have both sides sit down and figure it out
and work it through.
It's a classic argument from the disruptors.
Regulators, governments, elected politicians,
they all have to catch up,
change their policies to take account of the new reality.
In fact, Silicon Valley seems to have a pretty dim view
of governments in general.
That is most evident when it comes to tax.
-Hey. Wonderful to meet you.
-How are you doing?
I'm here to see Larry.
Yeah, we're going to take you right over there.
You can get an idea of Silicon Valley's attitude to tax
by looking at how the companies behave in their own back yard.
Larry. Jamie, how are you doing?
-Glad to see you.
-What a beautiful office.
Glad you're here.
Larry Stone is the assessor for Santa Clara County,
a friend of presidents and would-be presidents.
Within a five-mile radius of where we're standing...
..almost all the major corporations in Silicon Valley -
Google, Apple, Facebook's about five miles away.
Companies here pay local property tax at a rate of 1%
of the value of all their buildings and equipment.
It's the job of Larry and his team
to work out the value of this property.
I'm interested in whether those tech firms tend to disagree
with what you're saying they owe in tax.
Many of them do, yes.
I mean, we have about 70 billion
of what we call value at risk.
Sorry, 70 billion?
Of assessed value at risk.
What, that's being appealed or disputed by those companies?
And about 80% of that are major corporations -
Larry wants to show me the subject
of one of his biggest battles over tax.
When completed, their new headquarters
will be the most impressive in Silicon Valley.
Quite the place, huh?
But why? Isn't this just a public street?
Why are they so secretive?
That's the mind-set,
the culture of the company is secrecy.
And always has been.
VOICEOVER: The constant hum of mild paranoia
is never far away in Silicon Valley.
But we can...
These folks are from the BBC.
No, he's filming me, I think.
Yeah. Well, we're just standing in the street.
With a mile-long circumference,
Apple Park will be a modern-day Colosseum.
Its centre will be a park for Apple staff.
It's expected to cost more than 5 billion.
Look at this, the scale of it.
-It's for show as well.
It's like sort of...
It's like emperors building a new temple to themselves, you know.
It's sort of vanity.
It's unbelievable. It's a vanity project.
If Steve Jobs was here right now, he would love to hear you say that.
Steve, it's working!
Last year, Apple paid nearly 34 million in local property tax,
the second largest amount in Santa Clara County.
But it is disputing the largest amount of value,
covering 2010 to 2015.
We have 6.8 billion worth of assessment appeals.
So you said it's worth £6.8 billion.
Yeah. They say it's worth 57 million.
-So they're essentially...
That's a big... That's a pretty big...
They are disputing 99% of their value.
How do you...? How can it be possible that you say,
this stuff you own is worth nearly 7 billion, and they say,
no, it's only worth 50 million?
-How is that possible?
-Well, because that's what they file.
Now, obviously, it's not worth 57 million.
So how are they coming up with this number?
Pulling it out of some part of their anatomy,
but I don't know if it's the top of their head or is it something else.
If Apple's appeal succeeds in full,
68 million of tax would be slashed to just over 0.5 million.
Apple isn't the only tech titan filing local property tax appeals.
The company has funded over 70 million of local improvements.
VOICEOVER: But I wondered what Larry thought all this means for society.
After all, this local tax pays for schools and other services.
In the '50s, '60s and '70s, Detroit was the envy of the world.
Today, Detroit is in bankruptcy.
We could go the same way if we don't solve our public education
and if we don't resolve our commitment to the community
as a people, as citizens and corporations.
Around the world, tech giants have been accused
of aggressively minimising their tax bills.
The EU is demanding Apple pay up to £11 billion of tax
it says is owed to Ireland.
But how they deal locally with these issues,
how they deal locally with their local taxman,
says something about the culture of these places,
the general approach of always trying to minimise the tax they pay
or trying to work around governments.
It makes a lot more sense
when you come here and you see how a company like Apple behaves
in its own back yard.
Of course, there's nothing new about technological disruption.
Steam power, electricity,
production lines destroyed the industries that existed
before them and forced governments to change.
The world survived, life got better.
The question now is whether the Silicon Valley revolution
is going to be different.
The big secret in Silicon Valley is that the next wave of disruption
is not going to be like the last,
because it could tear apart the way capitalism works.
And, as a result, the way we live our lives
could be utterly transformed.
Early morning on the edge of Orlando, Florida.
I'm heading into the coming world.
I'm on my way to do some disrupting with a group of people
who want to change an entire industry,
and they might end up changing the whole global economy
and how it works.
Our mission begins in the car park of a home improvement store.
It's not the most obvious place to start a revolution,
but this one has a certain do-it-yourself quality.
It's absolutely huge.
I've never been in a truck before.
Oh, wow, this is it.
VOICEOVER: Meet Stefan Seltz-Axmacher,
a 27-year-old who's raised 5 million
with his plan to change the future.
Tony Hughes is key to Stefan's plan.
What is this?
And we've got to get this over to...
Which is... How far is that?
All right, so we've got... How long have we got in the truck?
Well, then, let's do it. All aboard.
More than three million trucks carry freight on America's highways.
This truck isn't like the others.
Tony, is the system good?
Car check, is the system good?
OK. Rosebud on, Rosebud on.
So you're not touching the wheel. I can see the other wheel's moving.
It's quite scary.
It's just driving itself, man.
Stefan and his team have made this truck drive itself
by adding a computer
that controls the pedals and steering wheel.
They're hoping, by adapting the huge existing truck fleet,
they can beat bigger rival companies racing to build expensive
self-driving trucks from scratch.
You see, every time it veers a little bit, my heart goes.
I'm thinking, "Oh, God, it's lost control."
And then it kind of comes back in again.
Like, your heart beats just a little bit quicker,
because you're thinking,
"Oh, my God, we've got suddenly this huge vehicle that we're all in is
"being controlled not by the driver but by the computer."
VOICEOVER: I can't help wondering.
Trucking is one of the best-paid jobs
open to people without a degree, but for how long?
Among America's 3.5 million truck drivers, Tony is a rarity.
What do they say when you tell them what you're doing?
They call me a traitor because they say,
"You're taking our jobs away from us."
-They call you a traitor?
How does that make you feel?
As long as I'm satisfied with the job that I'm doing out here
and making lives better for other drivers,
they can say whatever they want.
And this will make a difference in drivers' lives.
Stefan's vision of self-driving trucks still requires drivers.
They'd be needed to remotely pilot the trucks through busy depots or
congested cities, on and off the motorway.
How does it compare now, do you think,
to if Tony is driving without the...?
Well, the system still isn't as good as Tony.
The goal is that it will be better
than an above average or good driver
-in the next couple of months.
-Next couple of months!
-That's what we think.
-That's the speed at which it's improving.
Because we're focusing on this particular domain.
It's way easier, it's a way simpler to drive autonomously on the highway
than to drive autonomously in a neighbourhood.
There are way fewer variables that happen.
There's no shortage of ambition in this cab.
Our plan is to start to take people out of the vehicle on limited routes
-by the end of the year.
-By the end of the year.
But there are some teething problems.
We've got a team of engineers that are kind of driving with us,
so we've stopped off in a lay-by, they've jumped out,
they're checking the pedals, making sure everything is working.
That's exactly what Silicon Valley's about.
Once you are out there doing it and you're dealing with real-life
problems, things going slightly wrong and fixing them up...
..you can then demonstrate to the world
that we have made this thing work.
We're not going to wait around for all the regulations.
And then, almost
by virtue of demonstrating its power,
it forces the world to change around it.
And I think that's what happens
when you take this kind of disruption philosophy,
this idea of Silicon Valley, getting out there,
changing things and then making the world catch up with them.
That's why they've conquered the world.
-We have arrived.
-We've made a delivery in an autonomous vehicle.
Rosebud drove the truck for more than 100 miles today.
Spending time with Stefan is a chance to find out if Silicon Valley
worries about the possible downsides of automation.
What if it just becomes so efficient,
that we don't need drivers any more at all?
Yeah. That's a thing that could happen,
but we'll definitely find other things to do for work.
In the 1920s, Keynes thought that by now we'd work a four-hour work week.
We found a lot of other things to do.
Social media managers, not a job in the 1920s.
I think that we will inevitably find more things
that we need to do as jobs.
I just, I can't believe how optimistic you are.
-I mean, it's great, obviously, but does a little bit of you think,
"Well, what if, what if there aren't jobs for people?
"What if this time's different and we can't create the jobs?"
You can see the possibility of negative outcomes from AI,
like it would be foolish to say that there was no possibility
that it could go badly.
But look at what we, as a species, have overcome.
You know, whether it's the black plague, whether it's slavery,
Cold War with the threat of dead-hand nuclear orders, I mean,
we've come by so far.
But history may be no guide to the consequences
of the next wave of disruption.
What's different about this industrial revolution
is that Silicon Valley's using data and software
so machines can learn how to do things better than humans.
So how far is this going to go?
I'm meeting a pioneer of another technology
that will change capitalism as we know it -
-What is this?
Well named, huh?
In the world Jeremy Howard is building,
it won't just be truck drivers or manual workers
who stand to be replaced.
Everyone's job will be precarious.
You've got to have a go. If you lean forwards, there we go.
If you lean forwards it goes forwards...
-And lean backwards to go backwards.
And then take your front foot off to stop.
How are you so good at this?
-How do I stop?
-Yeah, just lean back and then front foot off.
That was awesome!
Guess where we get started.
Go through to the garage.
There's a clue here to how Jeremy is developing artificial intelligence,
machines that can learn like we can.
Why do I have Chinese books?
Well, not because I wanted to learn Chinese,
but because I wanted to learn how the mind works,
and the best way to learn how the mind works was to try and learn
-Did you learn Chinese to learn how the mind works?
Right, which I then used that in order to figure out how to implement
that in machine learning.
Artificial intelligence is at the heart of the start-up Jeremy
founded to help combat the shortage of doctors and radiologists
in the developing world.
It turns out that figuring out what's wrong with you
and how to make you better is just a data problem.
So I was like, all right, I know how to do data problems.
I don't know anything about medicine, but I know data problems.
Jeremy uses deep learning software
to diagnose cancer from medical images.
The software learns from examples to identify patterns, like we do.
It spots problems by inferring from what it has learned,
becoming ever more accurate.
The software that I built takes about 0.02 seconds
to look at a CT scan.
So it can look at a million...
A human takes, to look at it properly?
So we can look at a million CT scans like that, and now,
and because we're using these neural networks, deep learning, to do it,
it can literally develop an intuition,
the same kind of intuition that a radiologist has.
Within two months, we had something that beat
the world's best radiologist to diagnose lung cancer.
-Beat the world's best?
-Yeah, beat a panel of the world's best.
VOICEOVER: Here, the march of the machines feels unstoppable.
So this is going to get bigger, isn't it?
Because deep learning, once it's out and once it's doing this,
it's not going to stop at medical staff?
I feel very similarly to how I felt in the late '80s when I saw
the internet for the first time, and I started looking into it,
and I started telling people,
"I think the internet's going to be used for all things."
When I look at deep learning, I see that...tenfold.
Jeremy is using technology to make his own work more efficient.
It turned out that at 0.8 miles per hour,
I could study for twice as long,
have half the errors and be twice as fast than no treadmill.
The next wave of technology could make work more efficient,
by removing us humans altogether.
People aren't scared enough, you know?
Far too many people are sounding like, smart people,
are sounding like climate change denialists.
They're saying, "Don't worry about it, there'll always be more jobs."
And it's founded on this purely historical thing of like,
"Oh, there's been a revolution before.
"It was called the Industrial Revolution,
"and after it there was still enough jobs.
"Therefore, this new, totally different,
"totally unrelated revolution will also have enough jobs."
It's a ludicrously short-sighted and meaningless argument,
which incredibly smart people are making.
The totally utopian and dystopian futures are like very clearly
in front of us. And very clearly we could head down to either.
Honestly, the status quo -
do nothing and we end up there - will definitely be a dystopia,
which is a tiny class of society owns all of the capital
and all of the data and everybody else has no economic value,
is despised by the class that has things because they're worthless,
and massive social unrest.
It's the first time, I think...
..I've felt party to this secret,
that other people here seem to know and seem to talk about,
but they sort of cover it up and don't really want to say what it's
going to be. He was very, very plain about what's happening.
This technology's exponentially improving,
it's going to change everything and we ought to be
pretty afraid about that.
And to actually hear that...
..by someone that knows about this stuff...
..is pretty revelatory.
I want to know how far those at the top of Silicon Valley
are really thinking about how automation
will change all our lives.
Finally, I've arranged to meet one of the tech gods themselves,
a man who wields huge power here behind the scenes.
Sam Altman is considered,
I think more than anybody else in Silicon Valley,
to be able to predict the future.
He's like a kingmaker in Silicon Valley.
He gets to choose what the big companies of tomorrow will be.
Having him support your tech start-up,
is considered to be one of the greatest badges of honour
that you can get in Silicon Valley.
Sam runs this place - Y Combinator.
A company that nurtures start-ups with money and advice.
Better not park in Sam Altman's place.
Its companies are now valued at 80 billion,
including its biggest success, Airbnb.
-Hi, I'm Jamie.
-Nice to meet you.
How are you doing? Nice to meet you.
-Thanks for having us.
-So great to be here.
VOICEOVER: Sam's time is carefully allotted.
I just kind of wanted to go over the flow,
because Sam only has 35 minutes to meet with you today.
-Is he very busy?
So we can walk in and I can introduce you to everybody,
and then you can interview Sam on the couch for 35 minutes.
She's just setting up now.
-Welcome to Y Combinator.
-Thank you for having us.
-Sam, I'm Jamie.
-Very nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
Sam Altman co-founded his first business when he was 19.
After dropping out of university,
he sold it for more than 40 million.
He's now 32.
You're considered, I think,
in Silicon Valley as one of the people
that sees the future better than most.
So, what are you seeing?
A friend of mine says the best way to predict the future
is to invent it.
And that is a thought that has always stuck with me.
Sam is thinking hard about what the future could be like
after automation takes away the jobs of millions of us.
We're going to need to have new redistribution,
we're going to need to have new social safety nets.
One thing, one product that I'm funding
that we're doing at Y Combinator
is to study basic income,
and what happens if you just give people money to live on.
Because we have this world, we have huge wealth,
but it's very concentrated.
What happens if you just give people money and say, you know,
here's enough money to have a house and eat and to have fun?
Do you think people would find fulfilment and all the other things,
dignity in work for example,
under a system where there's a small number of very rich people
and they're being given money to...
..find things to do with their time?
I mean, it sounds pretty terrible, pretty terrifying to me.
You have a very pessimistic view of the future.
I hope you're wrong. I believe that someone, you know,
doing mechanical labour is not the best fulfilment
of their dreams and aspirations.
But the problem, I think,
or the thing that makes me pessimistic or nervous,
is that society will have to change dramatically,
and that's quite worrying.
Look, I believe society will have to change dramatically.
I think we've been through many of these before,
and, look, I understand that people have this spirit of,
"I'm going to hang onto the past at all costs,
"I hate progress and I hate change."
-But it's not that...
-And I hear that from you, I get it.
It's not that. It's not hating progress.
What if the progress that you're, not just you,
but the community here's creating, is not what other people want?
There are 40 million people in the US that live in poverty.
If technology can eliminate human suffering...
..we should do that. If technology can generate more wealth
and we can figure out how to distribute that better,
we should do that.
I think it's an important job for journalists
to try to ask about the negative possibilities of this stuff.
I think if you continue this thrust of, shouldn't we stop progress,
no-one's going to take you seriously,
because people want this stuff, and people don't...
People don't think that we should still have people in poverty.
People don't think that we should take away our iPhones
and take away Facebook.
So I think you can add a really important voice,
but I worry you're going in the wrong direction with this,
like, anti-progress angle.
Orcas Island, north of Seattle.
The edge of American civilisation.
I'm here to meet one former Silicon Valley insider
who fears where technological progress could be taking us.
Whenever I talk to normals, which is what they call you people,
or normies, OK, I almost feel like saying,
"Look, I'm from the future, believe me.
"I just got off a time machine called
"the flight from San Francisco."
VOICEOVER: Antonio Garcia Martinez
was a product manager at Facebook before he quit Silicon Valley.
I've seen what the world will look like in five to ten years.
You may not believe it, but it's coming.
And it's coming in the form of a self-driving truck
that's about to run you over.
How worried are you about this?
Oh, horribly, why do you think I'm here?
Why are we here?
In the ass end of the Northwest?
It's going to destroy the world.
So, this is it?
This is it.
So this is sort of the general area, this is my utility thing over here,
where I store a bunch of stuff.
That's going to be the future house site that we just walked through.
By the way, this is the throne room right here.
Composting bucket toilet for now.
Why did you choose this particular plot of land?
Because nobody knows about it.
Canada is a swim or a kayak's ride away if necessary.
Ideal climate, big community, self-sustaining food production.
And defensibility, in the case of things fragmenting for a while.
The AR15, the civilian version of the M4,
the standard issue service weapon of the US military.
-Is it loaded?
-Well, I don't know.
If things go bad in the future, what...
Is this going to be what you need?
Of course. In the post-America,
the 5.56 millimetre round will be the currency of the new America,
I guarantee you.
This is the tipi clearing,
this is a traditional Lakota Sioux tipi and we're going to
put this up today.
Why is it wobbling so much?
Back it up, back it up, right, right.
You might think it's silly that I have AR15s
and a well and solar panels,
but what do you have in the case of a crisis?
You're just betting that it doesn't happen, right?
-And as we used to say at Goldman Sachs,
hope is a shitty hedge.
You have hope, that's all you have, you have hope.
Hope is a shitty hedge.
OK, OK, come over towards me.
So you think there are some people that are kind of in Silicon Valley,
-doing this too?
-Oh, absolutely, I'm not the only one.
-I'm not unique in any way.
-I wonder what other people in Silicon Valley
-might be doing.
-They have their own hideaways,
they buy land in other places and they've got a bunch of guns
and wells and all the rest of it.
It's kind of like this, maybe a little less rustic,
a little less hippie, but very similar.
But, hang on, I mean it sounds a little bit selfish...
..because what about the rest of us?
Life is short and we all die alone, I mean, there it is.
Silicon Valley is unleashing the next wave of disruption,
without knowing for sure whether the world will be made better
as a result.
What is at stake?
Well, I mean, there's 300 million guns in this country,
one for every man, woman and child, right?
And they're mostly in the hands of those
who are getting economically displaced.
There could be a violent revolt.
Why are you kind of speaking out about any of this stuff?
Well, because it's the only real debt
that I think technologists have.
Not enough of them are actually speaking out
and actually informing the general public.
You don't realise, we are in a race between technology and politics,
and the technologists are winning, they are way ahead.
They will destroy jobs and disrupt economies
way before we even react to them.
And what we really should be thinking is about that.
Preparing a survival plan IS extreme.
The coming wave of disruption COULD bring great benefits.
But there's a risk Silicon Valley's promise to build a better world
could inflict a nightmare future on millions of us.
Politics, in the end, has to be able to take control of this technology,
regulate it somehow, slow it down if that's what people want,
but make sure that the technology is being built for people,
in a way that people want, in a way that society wants,
and not just in the interests...
..of the tiny number of incredibly rich people
from the West Coast of America.
How did Silicon Valley become so influential?
The Open University has produced an interactive timeline
exploring the history of this place.
To find out more, visit...
..and follow the links to the Open University.
Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley's glittering promise to build a better world. The tech gods believe progress is powered by technology tearing up the world as it is - a process they call disruption. He visits Uber's lavish offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But in Hyderabad in India, Jamie sees for himself the human consequences of Uber's utopian vision - drivers driven to suicide over falling earnings. Riding shotgun in a truck as it drives itself for more than a hundred miles on a highway, Jamie asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley's global disruption - the automation of millions of jobs - will mean for all of us. In search of answers, he gets a warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software - an economic shock is coming, faster than any of us have realised. Jamie's journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former Facebook executive who has armed himself with a gun because he fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism.